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I've decided to buy a Ruger 77/22 in .22 Hornet. One model features a 20-inch barrel, the other a 24-inch barrel. I understand that the longer barrel adds weight; other wise, what's the difference? I presume there will be some change in bullet velocity and accuracy.
 

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I understand that the longer barrel adds weight; other wise, what's the difference?
Probably, not much. The Hornet case doesn't hold a lot of fuel, and the 20" barrel will not lose velocity like a .243 or 7mm Mag.

I had a CZ Hornet for a while, and the barrel length was on the short end. It was always close to the longer barrel Hornets in the loading manuals.

What the heavier barrel does do, is heat up slower, if that's an advantage, and the extra weight is less affected by shooter input.

If you carry it lots, and shoot it not so much, the lighter barrel might be better. If you sit at the edge of a prairie dog town, and blaze away, the heavy barrel might be the ticket. The Hornet may be a pipsqueak, but the lighter barrel will heat up faster than you'd think.

My only complaint with the Hornet, was brass life. And availability.
 

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Barrel length doesn't really affect accuracy - it affects shootability though, so often a longer barrel will be more stable to handle. A great bore in a short barrel will shoot better than a crap bore in a long barrel.

If the longer barrel is a heavier contour, then the same applies. A heavier barrel will run more stably, but again, a great bore in a skinny barrel will outshoot a crap bore in a heavy barrel. Harmonics and "whip" play such a minor role that largely, citing these is more hokum than science. Heat absorption and dissipation does, however, come into play - but only if you're shooting in quick succession. If you're hunting, so most of your shots are cold-bore, you won't notice much - if any - difference.

You will, however, gain a bit of velocity. With the tiny case of a 22 Hornet, there isn't a lot of powder left to burn after 20", but with the right powder choices, you can gain 150-200fps over the shorter barrels, maybe more if you're particularly judicious in seeking the right powder.

Since most guys want 22 Hornets as handy carrying rifles for hunting small game, the lighter weight 20" barrel is likely the better choice.
 
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